What Amazon Can Learn from WALL-E
When Pixar’s WALL-E debuted in 2008, comparisons between the movie’s all-encompassing big box corporation, Buy n Large, and Walmart abounded. WALL-E portrayed a future world where Buy n Large had enabled gross consumerism, overtaken all of industry, and ran the global government itself! According to the story, Buy n Large started as a small yogurt shop—not a far stretch to compare it Walmart’s humble beginnings as the modest “five and dime” shop that Sam Walton opened in Bentonville in 1950.
It occurred to me recently, however, that nowadays it seems Amazon might be the more apt analogy given their proliferation into just about everything. Amazon is with us all the time via our mobile devices; no travel required. And being born as an online bookstore in Jeff Bezos’s garage, Amazon’s meteoric creation myth is Disney-worthy. But even more apt are the comparisons between Buy N Large’s monopoly of every conceivable industry and Amazon’s knack for absorbing unlikely bedfellows into its business. Let’s do a comparison based on Buy n Large’s fictitious wiki, vs. Amazon, including Jeff Bezo’s endeavors:
In summary, Amazon and/or Bezos is in roughly 17 of the 34 Buy n Large industries. Which begs the question: are there lessons Amazon might want to take from the Pixar movie, fictitious though it may be? Here are a few that come to mind:
- Environmental responsibility. The larger Amazon’s footprint gets, the more responsibility and accountability they have for what they leave behind. There is no shortage of criticism as to the impact of all that eCommerce produced cardboard is having on our landfills or the carbon footprint of the Amazon shipping network. Solar panels and carbon offsets may not be enough. When will we see more reusable totes, particularly where Amazon has its own delivery service?
- Political action. Amazon has no shortage of lobbyists. Whether it’s fighting a national eCommerce tax, corporate tax reform, anti-trust, net neutrality, or worker’s rights, Amazon is having an increasing impact on government policy. And let’s not forget Bezos’ Blue Origin space endeavors, working directly with the Pentagon and NASA.
- Corporate excess. How much is enough? How big is big enough? Thus far, Amazon has stayed on the kind side of the media, even surviving the small business backlash. But at some point, will they get outgrow their ability to manage themselves?
Pixar may have thought they were writing a pretty clever, not-so-subtle commentary on the behemoth that Walmart is and once was. Little did they know they were actually writing something more predictive of the future than even they realized! Let’s just hope we don’t all end up on the Amazon Axiom!